I met Rae in August, 2011, in Vernon, BC while attending a TTeam clinic at the Icelandic Horse Farm. We were to introduce one another to the rest of the group. We immediately became friends. Last year she came and visited me. And this year, I visited her. Both visits were like a cultural exchange because I live in America and she lives in Canada. As we who are in the know, know, America and Canada are two distinct countries with two distinct cultures. For instance, many Americans like guns and use them to kill people, often in mass. And many Canadians like the goings on of the royal family. (Rae is an exception to the latter, but still a very good Canadian.)
We arrived late on Thursday at Rae’s, were somewhat dazed after a long day of travel, which culminated in the border crossing into Canada. Our paperwork was in order, so we got through quickly. Still, it was stressful because you never know what’s going to happen. I, for one, didn’t relish being told to go back to America at night, because it would by then have been near impossible to find a place to camp.
Rae was very accommodating. She assisted Pete and me in unloading the horses, and then made us grilled cheese sandwiches and tea. I sensed that she lived in a very wild and somewhat
remote place. This was confirmed the next morning when I got up and looked outside the sun room window. Rae, her husband Tom, and their son David live about as close to the Canadian Rockies as you can get. They form an incredible backdrop to an equally beautiful setting. Neighbor cows (Herefords), which are pretty much left alone, range freely in the area directly next to the house.
The following three days went by in a flash. On Friday Pete, Rae, Tom, Dave and I did a hike into some nearby foothills and had a picnic lunch. Tom and Rae both are inveterate readers, so it was fun talking about books that we have recently read. The following day, Rae and I went on a field trip to the upscale town of Fernie. (Pete and Tom shoveled and moved gravel). The plan was to mosey around a local park, then go and check out town. The park walk actually took us a ways. It went alongside a river, across a bridge, past an old horse barn, and over to another trail. This secondary trail had interpretive information about what was once a coal mining area. And, as we discovered, the reconstructed horse barn used to house the horses used in the mining operation.
We meandered back to town and had lunch in a local bagel shop. We ate outside, tied the dogs to the railings, and people watched. This made me feel extremely urbane. Overall, I was impressed with Fernie. Like hey, they even have a mountain bike park on the edge of town. How cool is that? Why, I wondered, why they don’t do the same where I live in Palmer? Sure would promote tourism. I mean, at the very least, bicycle shops benefit from such things.
On Sunday, Rae and I went to Fairmont Hot Springs. I nearly passed on this because my bathing suit has lost its elastic properties. I ought not have been concerned. Most people in Canada are in pretty good shape, but this place had its share of odd ones. Watching tattooed, overweight, and very wrinkled individuals gave Rae and I something to speculate about. It was comforting to know that I didn’t stand out.
The high point of the visit was on late Sunday evening. At about 9 p.m. Dave emerged from his bedroom and said that there was bear outside his bedroom window, and that it was under the crab apple tree, eating crab apples. Rae, Pete, and I followed him into his room and peered out the window. Dave was right – there, under a tree, was a large, moving form. We at first thought it was a black bear, but when it emerged into the light, we saw that it was indeed, a grizzly bear. The thing was huge. What most impressed me were its claws – they were at least five inches long.
I had never before been this close to a bear, not even in the Katmai bear viewing area. I felt relatively safe, though I stayed back from the window screen. I later got to thinking that if I were alone in a tent, and in the general vicinity of that bear, I’d probably shit my pants. No kidding.
We left Rae’s on Monday morning. It was hard parting company with her because she’s one of the most articulate and generous people I know. Must be because she’s Canadian. Can’t think of any other reason for it.
Next: 182: 9/22/13: Jasper National Park